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U.S. Merchant Marine Academy kicks off new class of candidates

Plebe candidates for the U.S. Merchant Marine class

Plebe candidates for the U.S. Merchant Marine class of 2023 are sworn in. Credit: U.S. Merchant Marine Academy/USMMA

A class of 280 “plebe candidates” began its 18-day indoctrination training Friday at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, learning the basics of maritime and regimental life, from military discipline to waterfront safety.

The Merchant Marine’s class of 2023 includes candidates from 44 states who are primarily 17- to 19-year-olds and straight out of high school, said academy spokesman George Rhynedance. The class includes 53 minority candidates and a record number of women — 74, Rhynedance said.

The academy, which trains men and women to be midshipmen working on deep sea vessels and in the military, was the first service academy in the nation to admit women.

Plebe candidates will endure grueling 16-and-a-half-hour days that begin at 5 a.m. with physical and academic training, through lights out at 9:30 p.m.

“They will be taught to work in a group dynamic and as a team,” Rhynedance said. “Training starts early and ends late. It’s a stressful time.”

The nearly three-week training period will emphasize military discipline, teamwork, physical fitness, weapons training, basic seamanship, sexual assault response and prevention training and an introduction to college-level academics.

The academy graduated a class of 200 Merchant Marine and military officers last month with most students receiving bachelor of science degrees. In total, 74 graduates were commissioned into the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard, and 99 to the Navy Reserve Strategic Sealift Officer Program.

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